This blog continues JoeAm's discovery of how the Philippines works. Where it is first class, and where it is not.
It is striking how small the Philippines is in terms of who is managing things.
When MLQIII takes time to drop a comment off to JoeAm, or national newspapers print JoeAm's ramblings, then it is easy to suppose that our little Society of Honor here could potentially influence "national thinking".
I just bumped across an old acquaintance while reading through the Blogwatch News daily report that I receive by e-mail. Her name is Lila Shahani. We corresponded briefly a couple of years ago when she was actively blogging. Now she is working as Assistant Secretary & Head of Communications for an inter-agency coordination effort called The Human Development and Poverty Reduction (HDPR) Cabinet Cluster.
I didn't know this effort was underway. HDPR is on a Presidential mission to coordinate among 20 different agencies to work on poverty. This is hugely important, it would seem to me.
The cluster approach was announced in President Aquino's "Executive Order Number 43", May 13, 2011: PURSUING OUR SOCIAL CONTRACT WITH THE FILIPINO PEOPLE THROUGH THE REORGANIZATION OF THE CABINET CLUSTERS. The order recognizes that some goals require the involvement of multiple agencies.
As one of the clusters, HDPR has thrown its weight behind the RH Bill, urging President Aquino to address it in his SONA and issuing a press statement urging passage. That is a heavy-weight endorsement, when you think about it. How can legislators ignore the heads of 20 important agencies working on poverty-reduction in favor of a NON-GOVERNMENTAL agency, a PUBLIC INTEREST GROUP, called the Catholic Church?
How can legislators ignore the U.N., WHO, Human Rights Watch, the World Bank and just about every other responsible organization on the globe in favor of a PUBLIC INTEREST GROUP, called the Catholic Church. Not to mention women's rights and welfare groups.
But I digress.
Here is the HDPR web site link.
As is usually the case, I form impressions as I walk up to the front door of a web presence. On this one I see a headline referral to the singularly important subject: Poverty, scarcity and the rule of the Catholic Church. That is hitting the nail on the head. Lila wrote it for publication in Rappler . It largely counters the Church arguments against the HR Bill and the New Church Math that claims 140 votes lined up to defeat the Bill. She reasons well, which is something I have known for a couple of years now.
The HDPR web site is crisp and clear with four subject areas: News, Press Release, Research & Publications, and Related Links. However, there is not much material within the separate sections. The "Research" link leads to a National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) article about poverty by sector in 2009. From there, you can rummage through the NSCB resources. To me, 2009 data seems stale. Maybe it takes time to roll it up and get it on line.
The HDPR site seems new and underdeveloped, but I can see how it would be a valuable portal linking to poverty-specific resources at the base agencies. Like NSCB. One thing that is not yet clear to me is how all the pieces fit together. What is the master plan? I'd like to see the thinking on that.
Given that the web site is thin in content, I've dug a little to discover what HDPR has been up to.
- Here's the link to the recent statement advocating passage of the RH Bill. This bill is crucially important to improving the lives of women and slowing the over-birthing that keeps poverty one step ahead of the economy.
- HDPR has also issued a very reasoned and passionate plea for peace in Mindanao (pdf) so that poverty reduction work can continue unimpeded. Indeed, the key to peace is economic opportunity. It has little to do with religion.
- The Department of Management and Budget will implement a "bottoms up" budgeting process to get more development money to poor local communities. HDPR has identified 55 communities in the Eastern Visayas that will get special attention in 2013 as a pilot effort. This is a very important, groundbreaking step to ensure that poor localities have the kind of infrastructure development that improves the community AND provides jobs. It ensures that they don't get shuffled aside as politically irrelevant.
- Here is a presentation by the National Statistical Coordination Board (pdf) to HDPR regarding poverty statistics, methodology and progress at poverty reduction. There is a lot of technical material here. One meaningful point to me was how little progress on poverty reduction was made during President Arroyo's term. Most regions were 8 years behind targets by 2009. The Aquino administration seeks to correct this.
- The National Nutrition Council's nutrition program (HAIN) is being introduced in 609 cities and municipalities across the Philippines. These communities were identified by HDPR for attention. Better nutrition, better minds, better lives.
- President Aquino has touted a Career Guidance Advocacy Program to better match job skills to the needs of the Philippines. Today too many college graduates leave the university trained for jobs that don't exist. This program is under HDPR auspices.
This small sampling of projects underway suggests this is a very busy agency working to give direction and ACHIEVEMENT to the President's goal of reducing poverty.
Poverty will not be corrected overnight. It will take years for some programs to bear fruit. But it is clear that with HDPR actively engaged to orchestrate efforts of a large and complex government, the important Agencies are joined to work on the task.
This is a strong way to deal with poverty as a priority. It is a sound step . . . no, a vital step . . . toward a First Class Philippines.
Here's wishing HDPR great success.
Here is the charter for HDPR as set forth in Executive Order Number 43:
SECTION 7. Human Development and Poverty Reduction. The Human Development and Poverty Reduction Cluster shall focus on improving the overall quality of life of the Filipino and translating the gains of good governance into direct, immediate, and substantial benefits that will empower the poor and marginalized segments of society. In particular, the cluster shall pursue the following goals:
a. Making education the central strategy for investing in our people, reducing poverty and building national competitiveness;
b. Recognizing the importance of advancing and protecting public health;
c. Building of the capacities and creation of opportunities among the poor and the marginalized;
d. Increasing social protection and engaging communities in their own development;
e. Promotion of equal gender opportunities in all spheres of public policies and programs; and
f. Ensuring effective coordination of national government programs for poverty reduction at the local level.
The composition of the Cluster shall be as follows:
Secretary, Department of Social Welfare and Development
Chair, Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council
Secretary, Department of Agrarian Reform
Secretary, Department of Agriculture
Secretary, Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Secretary, Department of Education
Chair, Commission on Higher Education
Secretary, Department of Health
Secretary, Department of Labor and Employment
Secretary, Department of Budget and Management
Secretary, National Economic Development Authority
Secretary, Department of the Interior and Local Government
Lead Convenor, National Anti-Poverty Commission
Secretariat: National Anti-Poverty Commission